A group of four women dedicated to raising awareness and funds for safe bicycling is setting out from Florida tomorrow to Ride America for Safe Routes through 13 southern states, 20 major cities, and over 5,000 miles. On Tuesday, February 21, they will make a pit stop Leaphart Elementary School in Columbia to teach students about the fun of biking and walking to school.
Beginning in Key West, Jeanie Ward, Stephanie Palmer, Jane Ward, and Chelsea Ward-Waller will travel by bike across the country, meeting with bike advocates and educating communities about the need for bike safety, all in an effort to raise $50,000 for the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program and Safe Routes to School.
Safe Routes to School is a national program dedicated to providing children with encouragement and safe ways to walk and bike to school. In South Carolina, 45% of requests for Safe Routes funding have been awarded since 2005. While $0.95 per capita funding is spent on biking and walking statewide, obligated funds per public school student are above the national average at $10 per student. However, the new Transportation Bill currently in the House of Representatives reverses 20 years of progress for bicycling and walking in federal policy, eliminating Safe Routes coordinators in state DOTs and putting the entire program on the chopping block.
In an era of rampant childhood obesity, taking away a child’s opportunity for exercise and independence by walking or biking to school safely is a disappointing leap backwards. South Carolina especially should be concerned about health consequences of this bill; 30% of our adult population is obese. We applaud these women for taking to the roads in support of this important program and look forward to welcoming them to Columbia.
A Silver Partner of SC Safe Routes Resource Center, Leaphard Elementary faculty and students will have an opportunity to meet and learn from them at the event on February 21 beginning at 7:50 a.m., during which students will receive bicycle and pedestrian safety lessons. For more information on Safe Routes to School in South Carolina or to find out if your child’s school is a partner, please visit the Resource Center.